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Introducing Elizabeth Knox

March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Knox

Actually, I decided I liked Elizabeth Knox when I read Daylight – I’d just finished The Historian and wanted more, more – more; saw a NZ book with more vampires cruising around Europe … and the rest as they say is history (first time I read a vampire book and not the usual first vampire books, but there you are. It’s how it goes.)

I realise it’s The Vintner’s Luck that everyone knows, but that wasn’t really for me, though I loved The Angel’s Cut. Her writing is always beautiful; that much I know. I did also really like Knox’s Dreamhunter and Dreamquake – which are probably the ones I’d like to look at when I get a chance – cos of the YA theme going here.

There is at least some academic work done, which is a big step forward!

Basic Bio

– born Wellington 1959

That’s basic, right?! I could revisit that, but she says it much more eloquently herself (

I could quote VUP: “Elizabeth Knox is the author of 12 novels, including The Vintner’s Luck (1999 Deutz Medal for Fiction, 2001 Tasmania Pacific Region Prize) and its sequel The Angel’s Cut, and most recently Wake (2013); a trilogy of autobiographical novellas, The High Jump; and a collection of personal essays, The Love School. The second part of her Dreamhunter Duet, Dreamquake, won an American Library Association Michael L. Printz Honor Award for Young Adult Literature in 2008. Her third novel for young adults, Mortal Fire, was shortlisted for the LA Times Book Awards, and won the 2014 NZ Post Book Award for Young Adult Fiction. Elizabeth was made an Arts Foundation Laureate in 2000 and an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2002, and was awarded the 2014 Michael King Writer’s Fellowship. She lives in Wellington.”

There is an extended (and really interesting) interview with Knox in Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand Writers in Discussion (pp.108-133, Ed. Siobhan Harvey. Cape Catley Ltd: Auckland 2010)

Knox on writing:

Black Oxen, Elizabeth Knox

– “Knox left school at the age of 17 and worked for the Inland Revenue Department for 18 months to save enough money to support herself writing. ‘All I knew was that I wanted to write a novel,’ she says, and One Too Many Lives was the result.  But the book was never published, although she approached publishers both here and abroad. ‘I got very depressed and eventually gave up,’ Knox says. ‘Publishers found the book somewhere between an adult work and a teenage novel.  It was even described as ‘not socially relevant‘, so I made sure the next book I wrote was.’  Knox isn’t so kindly disposed towards her second effort, entitled Salamander. ‘One day I’ll get around to destroying it with great gusto. The book dealt with ‘universal things’ like politics, love and family problems.  Unlike After Z-Hour, it was a realist novel.  It was part of my ‘pleasing the public’ phase, and is what you might call a ‘good serious novel’, but I hate it.  My other books undermine people’s ideas of what a good serious novel should be.”  pp50-51 Greg O’Brien and Robert Cross (1988) Moments of Invention; Portraits of 21 New Zealand Writers. Heinemann Reed: Auckland

– “Knox admits her school days were a ‘horrible although possibly invaluable’ experience.  She recalls her history teacher at Tawa College saying to her, after she had handed in an essay: ‘You do not seem able to express yourself in words.'” p52 Greg O’Brien and Robert Cross (1988) Moments of Invention; Portraits of 21 New Zealand Writers. Heinemann Reed: Auckland


More info at these sites: – because I like Te Ara, more than because there’s much info on Knox herself here  🙂

Academic criticism:

Anna Jackson, Geoffrey Miles, Harry Ricketts, Tatjana Schaefer, and Kathryn Walls.: A Made-Up Place: New Zealand in Young Adult Fiction (Victoria University Press: Wellington, 2011). This work is arranged thematically, so references are scattered throughout.

Stafford, Jane.: “Antipodean theologies: Elizabeth Knox’s The Vintner’s Luck.” 
In (pp. 52-69) Jackson, Anna; Stafford, Jane (eds). Floating worlds: essays on contemporary New Zealand fiction. Wellington: Victoria UP, 2009. pp. 192. (2009)

Joseph, Laura: “Dreaming Phantoms and Golems: Elements of the Place Beyond Nation in Carpentaria and Dreamhunter” Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature : JASAL (Special Issue: Australian Literature in a Global World) 2009, 1-10.   (freely available online)

Joseph, Laura “Opening the gates of hell: regional emergences in Carpentaria and Dreamhunter.” Southerly. 69.2 (Summer 2009): p66(15).

Wevers, Lydia.: “Fold in the map: figuring modernity in Gail Jones’sDreams of Speaking and Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter.”  Australian Literary Studies (23:2) 2007, 187-98. (2007)

Jackson, Anna“Elizabeth Knox’s Dreamhunter: The Portal Fantasy Turned Upside Down” Journal of Children’s Literature Studies, (4:2), 2007 July, 18-36 (English summary.). (2007)

Anna Jackson also gave a paper on Dreamhunter at a symposium on children’s literature in 2005.  Her paper was titled “The Place of the child in Dreamhunter’s ‘The Place.'”  The symposium, held at the University of Auckland, was titled “The Place of the Child in Children’s Literature” and was run by Claudia Marquis and Rose Lovell-Smith, but I don’t know whether the proceedings were published or not.

The Vintners Luck, Elizabeth Knox

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